Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Radiation Therapy for Multiple Myeloma

Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. It is more effective against solid tumors than blood cancers like multiple myeloma, but it may be used in special circumstances.

If radiation therapy is used to treat multiple myeloma, it is done with external beam radiation. In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at specific areas. The radiation oncologist will direct the radiation beam to affect as much cancer as possible.

Radiation therapy may be used to treat areas that have symptoms if chemotherapy is not effective. It may be used to:

  • Ease symptoms caused by a tumor that returns to one site.
  • Treat solitary plasmacytoma, a type of tumor that grows in the soft tissue or bones
  • Treat damaged collapsed vertebrae, especially when associated with spinal cord compression
  • Eliminate all myeloma cells to prepare the bone marrow for a transplant of new, healthy stem cells.

Radiation therapy can also be used to relieve bone pain. However, radiation further weakens the bones and decreases bone marrow function, so it may not be an option for everyone.


Multiple myeloma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated November 21, 2016. Accessed March 16, 2017.

Multiple myeloma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated September 2016. Accessed March 16, 2017.

Radiation therapy. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: Accessed March 16, 2017.

Radiation therapy for multiple myeloma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated January 19, 2016. Accessed May 13, 2016.

Last reviewed March 2017 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 3/16/2017